Safety Not Guaranteed (M)
Stars Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson and Karan Soni. Selected release (95 mins).
Colin Trevorrow's ingenious tale of a search for lost time, written by Derek Connolly, is a pleasing hybrid - it's a science-fiction relationship movie. Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) plays Darius, a gloomy magazine intern who is given the task of researching a story about Kenneth (Mark Duplass), an enigmatic man who advertises for a partner in a time-travel project.
The story idea comes from Jeff (Jake Johnson), who, as it turns out, has his own reasons for suggesting the assignment - they involve a rather more mundane attempt to turn back time. Another intern accompanies them: Arnau (Karan Soni), a quiet Indian geek, with whom Jeff attempts to create some kind of fraternity buddy relationship The plot strands involving Jeff and Arnau are a less successful element of the movie - after setting them in train, the filmmakers seem to truncate or abandon them.
Yet this is understandable, in a way - there's something quietly absorbing about the two central characters and their developing relationship, as Darius discovers more about the stubborn, seemingly deluded Kenneth and the reasons for his quest, and starts to wonder if his tale of time travelling experiences might really be true.
The film balances the extraordinary and ordinary with great aplomb, and Duplass and Plaza give beautifully judged performances. The nature of the putative journey remains an important strand of the plot but the strength of the film is in the depiction of Darius and Kenneth - there is danger and unpredictable charm in every exchange between them.